Posts filed under 'Architecture'

Architecture in NW Portland

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When weather allows, I’ve been wandering Northwest Portland and observing the diverse built environment. While Northwest is largely affluent, there are still pockets of light industry, so the mix of architectural styles is fascinating. While my tastes in residential architecture skew to the more modernist end of the spectrum, I’ve also come to appreciate fine examples of older style homes that can’t be found elsewhere in the city. Northwest is also an enjoyable place to stroll around because of all the hidden urban treasures, like obscure public stairs sandwiched between hillside houses. This area is also probably one of the oldest sections of Portland. Many streets are named after early settlers (Lovejoy, Quimby, Flanders, et al) and a few rehabbed structures still remain from the turn-of-the-century era illustrating creative adaptive reuse.

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Trolley Lofts
I would have never guessed this structure use to serve as a trolley barn if I hadn’t found a weathered placard on the other side of the block. Signs of old trolley tracks are all over this area – probably due to the usual chronically deferred street repair. I don’t know if this happened in other cities, but it looks like Portland wiped out its old trolley lineds by simply paving over the tracks. But back to the trolley lofts. A couple of these units are for sale, like a lot of condo buildings here in town, so I’ve had a chance to read the sales flyers. I even had a chance to tour one, but I declined due to lack of time. It would have also seemed weird touring a 700K loft I would never be able to afford. But the lofts seem really nice from the sales pictures I’ve seen. And the square footage is around 2,000+ which is quite generous for this area.

West Hills
This is where Portland’s old money lives and the stale architectural reflect this. Not much in the way a mid-century modern, but there are a few ’70s homes that have been renovated nicely. I know there is a Skylab designed residence in the area (from the movie Twlight?), but I just haven’t run into it yet. The West Hills are a wonderful place to take a relaxing walk (or difficult run) since it’s such a peaceful area, but I often feel uncomfortable walking amongst all the million dollar homes. I mean, you never see anyone out working in the yard or playing with children, even though every driveway has at least two cars in it.

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Portland Fire Station #17
At first I thought this little firehouse was still in use, but then I went to the Portland Fire Bureau website and it wasn’t listed as an active station. I suppose it’s too small to actually accommodate emergency vehicles, but I guess I thought that maybe it’s still used for administrative purpose. Not quite sure what the building houses today.

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Thurman Street Lofts
Look, I like this recent trend toward using wood cladding. The Randy Rapaport/Holst Architecture condo on Belmont is a great example of this. But this (Holst?) building just got it all wrong. There should be a balance here, some kind of contrast to the color and texture provide by the vertical slats. This building makes about as much sense as Segway polo. And if the overuse of wood slats wasn’t bad enough, it’s compounded by the fact it’s not even being well maintained. Would it kill the HOA to power wash the exterior once a year and either water seal or stain it? UPDATE: I’ve found some images of the original Holst design and it has different types of siding and it looks far better than the finished product. What happened?

Add comment June 23rd, 2009

It’s a Rummer!

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A couple of weekends ago, Stacy and I embarked on a self directed tour of Rummer homes in Beaverton after reading a recent issue of Dwell. Rummer homes were built by Robert Rummer, a developer who was inspired by the designs of Joe Eichler. Eichler homes were favored by Californian elite, like Quincy Jones, but Rummer built most of his mid-century modern dwellings in Portland, Beaverton, Newberg, Salem, and Florence.

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Stacy had everything all mapped, so we set out on something akin to an architectural Easter egg hunt. We were especially excited about the prospect of finding the mythical Vista Brook neighborhood with 60 Rummer homes concentrated within a four block area, so we left that one for last. The title of this blog post comes from a “for sale” listing sheet we swiped outside of one of the Rummer homes we first found. The picture of the listing agent gave the impression she only learned the significance of Rummer homes about a week ago (Rummers can command a $30,000 premium over similar homes).

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We still have one more neighborhood left to explore out in Beaverton, but I think we’ll be better trained to spot Rummer homes by then. It’s regrettable that many Rummer homes have been severely damaged by misguided renovations. But we can at least take solace in the fact many of these Rummer have not been radically altered by previous owners simple because they never had the money to make major alterations.

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There are a few more local Rummers out there left to discover, but they’ll have to wait for another nice weekend this Spring.

5 comments April 10th, 2009

Montgomery Park

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As some of you may or may not know, I have a new job with WebMD in Northwest Portland. One of the benefits of this new position is the upgrade to a far better office environment on the seventh floor of Montgomery Park, a building renovated by Bill Naito back in the ’80s. The structure is an old Montgomery Ward warehouse offering large, open floor plans and over 800,000 square feet of largely occupied office space. I believe the building is also the inspiration for one of The Simpson’s character names: C. Montgomery Burns. Finding historical information online about the building has been difficult, however, there is signage in front of the main entrance detailing some of the structure’s back story. Apparently, the building was constructed by Montgomery Ward and opened on January 1, 1921 as a shipping center to serve the growing west coast mail order market. The picture that accompanies the signage text shows train tracks entering the westside of the building. According the Oregon Historical Quarterly, two sets of railroad tracks allowed freight cars to be loaded and unloaded inside the building — a unique and useful feature in rainy Oregon. Montgomery Ward operated the building as a warehouse until 1976 and when Naito purchased the building in 1984, he changed the sign on the roof to read “Montgomery Park” instead of “Montgomery Ward”.

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The architecture firm SERA did the redesign, and while some of it has a definite ’80s feels like the Portland Building, it also offers a level of craftsmanship not seen in other projects from that era. One of the designs elements that bothers me on a daily basis are the doors on all the elevators. They have this v shaped brass pattern that is probably suppose to look classy, but it just looks tacky. A more simple, even industrial, design would have better complemented the building.

2 comments March 29th, 2009

Gordon House

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(Photo by Brian Libby)

This last weekend Stacy and I went down to check out the Oregon Garden and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Gordon House. This Usonian style dwelling was designed by Wright in 1957 for Evelyn and Conrad Gordon of Clackamas County and finished in 1963. Evelyn Gordon spent her twilight years in the house and then her children tried unsuccessful to sell it after she passed away. In 2001, the house and property were finally sold, but the new owners, oblivious to the significance of the structure, prepared to raze it in order to make way for a skanky McMansion. Lucky, the new owners displayed a modicum of decency (despite their utter lack of taste) and granted the house a three month stay of execution — just enough time for the structure to be dismantled and moved by truck to the Oregon Garden about 21 miles south of the original location.

I have to confess, the Gordon House is a little underwhelming compared to the other Wright house I’ve toured: Fallingwater in Southwestern Pennsylvania. My lack of initial awe is probably due to the fact the house is now in a totally different environment. Like all good architects, Wright designed his homes with their natural surrounding in mind. And while Wright never actually visited the property where the house was originally located, he had seen numerous pictures and had met with the Gordons on a couple of different occasions. Another strike against the Gordon house is the sparse interior. Unlike Fallingwater, there is no original furniture, so you don’t get a sense of what it must have been like to live in the residence. But on the plus side, the restoration is pretty remarkable and one can still marvel at Wright’s quirky flourishes, like the fret board windows or the 15 degree angles everywhere. Like all Wright houses, the roof leaks, so no
surprises there. I would definitely recommended it as a day trip destination for Portlanders – tours are only about $5.00.

Orginal interior before move to Oregon Garden

(Original interior before move to Oregon Garden)

Just a couple of comments on the Oregon Garden seem in order as well. We didn’t have great weather, but I still enjoyed walking around and riding the cute little tram. Of course I got us lost a couple of times, but it’s a fun place to get lost in. Since the OG hasn’t been around for very long, it feels somewhat sparse and undeveloped. At times it felt like we were in a scene from Jurassic Park, wandering around a soon to be open theme park. We stayed at the newly built Moonstone Resort at the OG which was quite nice and inexpensive. I think our fairly large room was around $90.00 and included a pretty good breakfast at the lodge. That rate also included admission to the Garden, but not the Gordon House. Bookings should probably be done online to get that deal.

B-Love’s Architecture Week Article
http://www.architectureweek.com

2 comments November 5th, 2008

Taking It Underground

There was this editorial last week in the Portland Tribune suggesting Portland needs underground light rail in our downtown core. While I agree underground rail would relieve some of the above ground congestion created by adding additional rail service, the notion of building underground transit is simply impractical. Whether it’s the cheaper “cut and cover” or the more expensive tunneling, the cost of building underground light rail would be crippling. Unless there are changes in how the Feds fund transportation project, I doubt we would be able to count on much funding from DC for such a massive project. But lets just say, for the sake of argument, Congress had a big pot of transportation dollars waiting to be tapped for mass transit. In my humble opinion, I think that money would be better spent bringing commuter rail downtown rather than additional light rail. I suppose it could even run underground through the downtown core if money was not a problem. To me, it would make more sense to provide fast service downtown for those living in places like Beaverton and Hillsboro than to add additional light rail capacity. The MAX is great, but it simply doesn’t move people into the city as fast as they would like. And limited commuter rail could actually be affordable to build if we used existing right aways and didn’t put any of it underground. However, underground transit, if we could afford it, would be super cool.

“Let’s dig deeper for a transit fix”
http://www.portlandtribune.com

“One Way to Go: a subway”
http://www.portlandtribune.com

1 comment December 11th, 2006

Portland Architecture

The most recent edition of the Portland Tribune features a front page article on Portland’s best and worst buildings. The piece touches on something that has always bothered me about PDX, which is our tendency to play it safe when it comes to architecture. Portland had its chance at scoring Frank Gehry designed low income housing, but we totally blew it. Now, that’s not saying I’m a huge fan of Gehry’s work, but it would have been cool to have one of his buildings here since they are such icons. Portland can feel so second tier when places like Seattle managed to get Rem Koolhaas to do their central library. And while it’s not directly related to architecture, don’t get me started on the whole Maya Lin disaster in the Pearl. Yes, we do have that Michael Graves designed building from the ‘80s, but have you been inside? What a dump. You know, it’s really frustrating to see such uninteresting buildings going up along the South Waterfront when we have great firms like Skylab and Allied Works doing their best stuff in cities that appreciate their fresh approach. Anyway, below is the Portland Tribune’s lists.

The lookers and the losers (Portland Tribune)
http://www.portlandtribune.com

Portland’s most beautiful buildings

1) Robert and Ann Sacks home, 2281 N.W. Glisan St.

Ned’s comments: Yeah, it’s a nice place, but I like the model home Skylab did in the West Hills better

2) Portland Art Museum, Hoffman Wing

Ned’s comments: Totally dig this Pietro Belluschi masterpiece.

3) U.S. Bancorp Tower

Ned’s comments: This building would look better in Miami. Circa 1985.

4) Belmont Lofts, 3442 S.E. Belmont St.

Ned’s comments: Great pick. Randy Rappaport is a total PIMP.

5) Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse

Ned’s comments: I don’t like the scale of this building. But it’s pretty cool I guess.

Portland’s ugliest buildings

1) Wells Fargo Center

Ned’s comments: I disagree. This is a cool building — even though it dominants the cityscape

2) Portland Building

Ned’s comments: Michael Graves is a hack.

3) 1000 Broadway

Ned’s comments: Affectionately known as the Ban Roll-On building. Stinky architecture.

4) Portland Marriott-Downtown Waterfront

Ned’s comments: Damn, this building hit every branch when it fell from the ugly tree. Even the architect said it blows.

5) Rose Garden Arena

Ned’s comments: Yes, this building does suck, but it’s not truly hideous. It sucks in a very underachiever kind of way…kind of like the Trail Blazers.

My best list (including PAM and The Belmont Lofts)

1) The Equitable Building (The Commonwealth Building)
Architect: Pietro Belluschi, 1948
A fine example of modernism, this building still looks fresh even today.

2) The Dekum Building
Architect: Henry Hobson Richardson, 1892
A great example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture. This building use to be home to Weiden & Kennedy.

3) Wieden & Kennedy Building
Architect: Allied Works Architecture, 2000
A killer renovation by Brad Cloepfil has saved this great building.

4) US Custom House
Architect: James Knox Taylor/Edgar M. Lazarus, 1901
I always admired this building during daily commutes to work down Broadway in the past.

5) US National Bank Building
Architect: A.E. Doyle, 1916
Modeled after the classic Roman temple, this place is amazing both inside and out. Those carved bronze doors in front are the Shiite Moslem.

My worst list (in addition to those mentioned by the Tribune)

1) Slammer Tavern
Hey, this is a great bar, but horrible building. And why is it still standing? Seems like a strong wind would knock it down.

2) Lloyd Center Mall
God, what a depressing building. A potential stand-in for that mall in “Dawn of the Dead”.

3) Bank of America Financial Center
Hey morons, your neon lights on the roof looks like ass!

4) ODS Tower
WTF is that “sculpture” in front about?

5) The Pearl
Snore.

2 comments October 25th, 2006

Roseway: An Appreciation

I’ve always been jealous of friends living in vibrant Portland neighborhoods like Mississippi or Alberta. Roseway, my modest neighborhood, has always felt so dour in comparison – like a homely sister relegated to the shadows at a party. But I’ve come to love my neighborhood’s less tangible qualities. Roseway offers a ton of wonderful and cheap restaurants. We also have an old school pharmacy featuring a fully functioning soda fountain. I see Roseway as a fixer upper neighborhood (much like North Portland’s St. Johns). Roseway is a house with good bones, but in need of some updating and new paint. To that end, I recommend taking a look at John Brehm’s design for the Roseway plaza below:

Roseway Plaza
http://www.formingarchitecture.com

The plaza, at the top of our park blocks, use to feature a huge rose garden. These days, it offers a whole lot of nothing. I like the idea of turning into something that would give an identity to the neighborhood and serve as a gateway of sorts. Really, the entire stretch of park blocks could be so much more than they are today. They could actually be little mini parks – with children’s play equipment and other amenities.

Below are some photos and descriptions of notable Roseway locales:

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Fairley’s Pharmacy
This cute pharmacy at the corner of Fremont and Sandy has a genuine soda fountain. They also offer WiFi now for the internet crowd, although I’ve never seen anyone in there with a laptop.

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Annie’s Donuts
The best donuts in Portland (Voodoo Donuts downtown is a close second). The interior of this place is great, but the external signage could be more interesting.

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Roseway Theater
Owned by the folks who run Cinemagic and The Moreland. Cheap admission, but lousy seats that leave your back aching. The movies are also all over the place. Sometime they have great films, sometimes they’re just horrible Hollywood crap. But it’s just up the street from my house and I love walking up after a few cocktails.

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Thien Hong
I love the pepper-salted squid here. Pretty much everything I’ve had here has been great. It’s really crowded on the weekends, but the service is pretty fast.

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Pho Hung (recently renamed Pho Vinh)
One of the best pho joints in Portland. And one of the cheapest. You can get a small bowl of pho for like $5.50 (and a small is really pretty big). There are a few other pho places on Sandy, often called “Pho Row”, but none are quite this good.

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Rose City Liquor
Decent little booze shop with a nice staff. For those readers not residing in Oregon, I should explain that we don’t sell hooch in stores. Only shops licensed by the state are allowed to sell hard liquor. And those beverages must be on an approved list and purchased from the state. How lame is that? Since there are only a set number of liquor stores in the city, it’s groovy having one close by.

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The Sandy Jug (now Pirate’s Cove)
I’m not real thrilled about having a strip club just up the street, but this site has an interesting history. Originally named the Orange Blossom Jug, it was built 1928 as part of a roadside complex including a service station with fake 75-foot oil derrick. In the 1930s, it became the Sandy Jug restaurant and in the 1950s it became a bar. In 2002, the Jug changed its name to Pirate’s Cove and went to a full on stripper format.

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Roseway Barber Shop
This is where I usually get my hair cut on weekends. Just $12.00 for a regular trim.

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Ed’s House of Gems
Never been in this store that boasts “everything for the rockhound”, but it has always intrigued me. They do carry lots of interesting tools, so I’m going to check it out at some point.

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Gregory Heights Library
If you’re not from Portland, you probably don’t know the joys of the Multnomah County Library. I’m sorry, but this is the best library system ever. I mean, they had The Conet Project, a collection of shortwave number stations recordings, in their collection until it was stolen last year. There is only one other library in the world with that CD set and they’re in the UK. Here are some of the items I have on hold or checked out right now:

- Arriflex 16SR Guide [book] by Jon Fauer
- Wages of Fear [DVD] Criterion Collection
- Architecture in Photography [book] by Paolo Rosselli
- Picaresque [CD] the Decemberists
- Last Days [DVD] Gus Van Sant

8 comments July 6th, 2006

The Tanya Harding Mystery

This last weekend I met a neighbor who asked if I wanted to know a little history about my house. Hesitantly, after mulling the possibility of a double murder or something similarly gruesome, I said yes. Well, according to this neighbor, “the fat guy” from the Nancy Kerrigan attack at the U.S. Figure Skating Championship in Detroit in 1994 lived in my house during the resulting media frenzy. I’m assuming this man was 300 pound Shawn Eckardt, although it could have been Shane Stant. I doubt it was Jeff Gillooly though, because he was apparently living with Tanya Harding in an apartment at the time according to news reports.

It all doesn’t add up though, since Eckardt supposedly lived with his parents in the Lents neighborhood during the early ‘90s. And after his racketeering conviction related to the Kerrigan’s attack, Eckardt served 18th months in prison. Co-conspirator Stant had moved to Arizona in the early ‘90s, so I doubt he lived there in ’94 (but maybe after his prison stint). Also, this neighbor didn’t move into his house until 1996, two years after the attack — so why would the media still be hounding the former occupant of my house nearly two years after the attack?

So as you can see, it’s all a big mystery. Was my neighbor confused about when he moved into his present home? Or maybe there was something related to Harding/Kerrigan Affair that occurred in 1996 and the media tracked-down all the former conspirators. Or maybe Eckardt moved into my house after his release from prison? But why would the media still be hounding him, since Harding and Gillooly always received the majority of the public’s attention.

Willamette Week published an article back in November, 2004 detailing what happened to all the major players after the incident in ’94. Go here to view the article. Over the next couple of days, I’m going to continue to investigate my house’s role in the Harding/Kerrigan Affair. If anyone out there has any useful information, please post it here on the Wildfreshness website.

May 16th, 2005

Brutal Beauty

I spent some time at Seattle’s Central Library a couple of weeks ago with Brian Libby and was struck by its bold design. Rem Koolhaas has single handedly reinvented the concept of the library, but not without controversy. Some patrons have criticized the disappearance of books (I think printed material only occupies about 30% of the space) while others have lamented the lack of cozy spaces where one can curl-up with their favorite novel. But I’d like to argue the virtues of this new library though. It has been designed to work with technology, not push it off to the side. The books are there (although admittedly many are not readily accessible), but the focus has turned to accessing and managing the explosion of digital information. Yeah, I guess Koolhaas’ building might be a “brutal beauty” as its been describe recently, but aesthetics aside, I believe this building will gracefully evolve to serve Seattle well over the coming decades.

2 comments April 8th, 2005


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